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Principal Shaves Head to Support Students Fighting Cancer

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- An elementary school principal held up his end of a bargain he made with his students after they raised money for two fellow classmates battling cancer.

The community was all smiles Friday -- all at the expense of Western Hills Principal George Panosh.

“It’s not just what you do for one person, but it’s about what you do for every person,” Panosh said to all his students Friday.

It’s a lesson his students have learned from two of their own.

Sixth-grader Niavh Hyatt was diagnosed with cancer of the brain and spine. First-grader Elayna Sandeen is now fighting lung cancer after recently beating kidney cancer.

So Panosh issued homework over winter break.

“We wanted to show support for them [Niavh and Elayna] but we also wanted to give our students a chance to chip and do something for themselves,” Panosh said. “About $1,500 for each student was raised in about a week-and-a-half period.

His students met the challenge "head" on -- so Panosh held up on his end of the deal.

With clippers in hand, Niavh happily helped out Principal Panosh and shaved his head in front of all the students.

"Shave it off!" the students cheered.

Elayna watched from an iPad  at the hospital during chemo.

"One of the things that brought me here was that family feel -- knowing that I was coming to a community that cared about their people," Panosh said.

While the principal spends his days educating the youth, he said Niavh and Elayna have taught him the lesson of a lifetime.

“We all have our own issues we go through every day, but you see them put up with a fight. No child should have to deal with this, and you see how strong they are and what they are struggling with. It lets everyone around them know they have that strength,” Panosh said.

Want to join Western Hills Elementary students in raising money for Niavh and Elayna? Their online fundraiser pages are blow:

  • Donate to Elayna’s fundraising pages here and here.
  • Donate to Niavh’s fundraising page here.

To learn more about pediatric cancer, visit

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